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Scholastic Kid Reporter Juliette Kessler, 12, interviews Roger Federer.
Scholastic Kid Reporter Juliette Kessler, 12, interviews UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Roger Federer following his appointment, at UNICEF House.
(Photo: UNICEF/HQ06-0113/Susan Markisz)

Goodwill Ambassador
By Juliette Kessler
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

April 4, 2006—Tennis star Roger Federer seems to have everything, but it's not enough: He wants to change the world.

Federer's good efforts off the tennis court resulted in an important appointment at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where he was named UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador on Monday. UNICEF is the United Nations' Children's Fund, which works to help children around the world overcome poverty, violence, disease, and discrimination. I was there for the announcement and got to talk to the new Ambassador afterward.

The good-looking No. 1 tennis player is only 24 years old and has a warm smile. He has chosen to use his superstar status to help others—especially children in need.

While the title "Goodwill Ambassador" may be new, Federer's work as a fervent supporter of kids is not. For example, after parts of Asia were devastated by a tsunami in late 2004, he organized an all-star tennis tournament to benefit UNICEF's relief efforts.

He is also the creator of the Roger Federer Foundation, which he describes as his proudest accomplishment. It is a charitable organization that helps disadvantaged children, especially those in South Africa. Federer, whose mother comes from South Africa, has a personal connection to that country.

The foundation funds education and nutrition programs and also promotes the value of sports for kids around the world.

"I'm absolutely convinced," he said, "that sports can help overcome prejudice and build bridges between cultures and nations." One of the most important aspects of tennis or of any sport, he explained, is respect for the other players. "I've been lucky in life, and able to pursue my passion for tennis since I was 6 years old. It's important to me to help the many children throughout the world who do not have the basic resources they need."

While he would like to help all of the children who need him, he plans to focus on Africa, where the HIV infection that often leads to AIDS is a big problem.

"It's like tsunamis are happening every day and no one notices," he said. He talked about visiting a hospital in Africa where he saw tiny babies with HIV lying in cribs. "They had no chance," he sighed.

The newest Goodwill Ambassador wants to change that. "I am honored to join the ranks of UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassadors," Federer said. Past ambassadors have included soccer great David Beckham; actors Vanessa Redgrave, Roger Moore, and the late Danny Kaye and Audrey Hepburn.

"Roger is not just a role model for aspiring athletes, but for all those who believe that we have the power and responsibility to make the world a better place for children," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "I have no doubt that Roger Federer will impress us with his leadership for children."


Visit this site to learn more about how the U.S. fund for UNICEF supports children around the world.

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